No. 21 Marshall looks to play a game for the first time in 21 days when it hosts Rice on Saturday in Conference USA play at Huntington, W.Va.
The Thundering Herd (7-0, 4-0 C-USA) have avoided their own COVID-19 issues but had a Nov. 21 home game postponed due to an outbreak in Charlotte’s program. Marshall had a bye last Saturday.
The Thundering Herd will get no sympathy from Rice, which has played just three games this season.
The Owls (1-2, 1-2) played just once over the past four weeks as games against UTSA (Nov. 7), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 14) and UTEP (Nov. 28) were either postponed or canceled due to the opponents’ COVID-19 issues.
So when Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said late last week there are no COVID-19 issues in his program, you can bet Marshall coach Doc Holliday was elated.
In fact, Holliday gushes over the fact his team has been able to successfully ward off COVID-19 problems.
“We’re proud of that, knock on wood,” Holliday told reporters. “Let’s hope that continues because with what’s going on out there right now, there’s a lot of unknowns. We’ve got to keep doing everything we can possibly do to keep this thing rolling.”
The Thundering Herd have certainly been rolling over opponents as they have won their seven games by an average of 27.3 points. Marshall has topped 40 points on three occasions and held four opponents to 10 or fewer points.
Marshall is averaging 37.4 points per game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells heads the charge with 1,674 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Junior running back Brenden Knox has also been superb with 744 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Knox has carried 148 times and been dropped for just 3 yards of losses.
Senior weak-side linebacker Tavante Beckett leads the way on defense with team-high totals of 69 tackles and four forced fumbles. Junior defensive end Darius Hodge has a team-leading six sacks for a unit allowing 10.1 points per game.
Seems like quite a challenge for Rice, but Holliday insists the Owls are better than their record.
“They’ve played everybody tough, to be honest,” Holliday said. “No. 1, they’ve got a bunch of kids that love to play. You watch them play — they play extremely hard.”
Rice lost 27-17 at North Texas on Nov. 21 in its lone contest last month.
Senior quarterback Mike Collins passed for two touchdowns and a season-best 327 yards in the setback.
Perhaps as impressive as the stats was the resilience Collins showed. The transfer from TCU was sacked seven times by the Mean Green but kept getting up without being dismayed.
“We didn’t do a very good job protecting him, and he still wanted the ball in his hands,” Bloomgren said. “He didn’t cower or ask us to call runs. He wanted the ball in his hand, he wanted to win the game, and that’s the mindset of a champion.
“That’s what we want around us. Even when it’s not going well and he’s getting hit, he wanted the ball. We’ve got to get all 22 completely there, to have belief we can do this and trust each other. Then we’ll be fine.”
Collins has thrown for 802 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception. His favorite target is senior wideout Austin Trammell, who has 16 receptions for 335 yards and six scores.
Senior weak-side linebacker Blaze Alldredge leads the Owls’ defense with 32 tackles.
Marshall has won five of the seven all-time meetings, including all three at home.
–Field Level Media